In Part 1 of this series of articles on the Philosophy of Training, I wanted to establish the importance of having a philosophy. In Part 2, I want to go a little deeper into my philosophy.
I mentioned in part 1 that reading the Nautilus Training Principles was my first recollection of reading anything that applied logic and true scientific principles to strength training. I had read other things that implied the use of principles. The old Muscle and Fitness magazines spoke of the Weider Instinctive Principle, which meant that you trained based on what you feel you need to do. There is definitely something to creating awareness of your body and how you feel, but the principle is not based on either logic or science.
As I have been thinking of this series of articles, I have been putting a lot of thought into whether or not we, as humans, value being logical in our thoughts and actions. If we do, are we logical in our actions? I believe that most people would say that they are logical. I think that most of us believe we are evolved beings and that we act rationally and logically. However, when observing many of our actions, they appear to be driven by emotion and primal desires. This is not meant as a criticism but is intended to get you to think about this very fact. Nearly every day, if not every day, I catch myself doing, thinking, or saying something that, upon reflection, supports the above statement. This idea goes far beyond training, but I believe it is relevant for our discussion on exercise and training.
I believe, based on my observations watching people train for 30 years, that in general, most people don’t have a logical reason for what they do for training based on the stated goals they have for training. It is for that reason that I want to give you the why behind every training session we have at Alliance. There is a purpose behind every training session. I also want to make sure I am clear in the distinction between what I am referring to as training versus working out and/or movement in general. Although each of these can be beneficial for your overall health and fitness, there is a difference.
Going back to the Nautilus Training Principles, there was a similar distinction outlined as the “Five Distinctions Between Exercise and Recreation.” These distinctions were covered in greater detail in Ken Hutchins’s book on SuperSlow and “The Renaissance of Exercise.”
Not Fun Fun
I am not in 100% agreement with these distinctions, but they are interesting to consider.
I agree that optimal exercise or training should be logical. My philosophy is that you should know why you are doing what you are doing if you want to be as efficient and effective as possible. One of the biggest takeaways here is that we will often choose what we like to do versus what we know we need to do to move towards a goal. Just go to any Big Box gym on Mondays, and you will find all the bench presses taken but will always be able to find an open squat rack. This will be the case despite many of those waiting in line to use the bench press have skinny chicken legs.
Universal/Personal and General/Specific
I am tying these together because they are similar discussions. When it comes to exercise or training, we all have similar and general needs. For example, we all have the same muscle and joint functions. In general, we all require the same type of movement. I believe it is essential to be able to perform basic movement patterns and develop strength in those patterns.
Basic Movement Patterns
- Vertical Pull
- Vertical Push
- Horizontal Pull
- Horizontal Push
These movements would be both universal and general for everyone. What exercises and how you choose to perform them would be more personal and specific. Your specific goals will also influence what exercise you do.
One issue, as I see it, is when we skip or ignore the general training for the specific and personal. Another problem is when we get attached to an individual or specific exercise and forget the original purpose of the exercise. Let’s use running as an example. Let’s say you were a runner in the past, and you enjoyed it. You started running to get in better cardiovascular shape and to lose some unwanted body fat. Years later, you have a knee issue, and running hurts. You want to continue running, and when asked why you say to lose a few more pounds and to improve your cardio. My recommendation would be one of two things.
- Correct the issue with the knee so that you don’t continue to cause further damage
- Consider a different approach to achieve the same intended goal (focus on nutrition for fat loss combined with strength training and high-intensity, low force interval training for cardio).
If you choose to run, that is fine, but realize you are making the decision based on personal and specific reasons.
Training and exercise can be both mental and physical. I personally believe that the benefits of physical training can be as important for the mind as they can be for the body. However, I think it is important to make the distinction again of why you are training. On one end of the spectrum, if you are training just to relieve stress or feel better, that is ok but also realize if you are not putting the intensity or mental focus into your training, you are not likely to optimize the physical benefits. Vice Versa, if you are training for a crucible style event like a marathon, Kokoro, etc. you may gain incredible insight mentally and spiritually but are also increasing your risk of physical injury.
“Not Fun” Fun
This is an interesting distinction. I have had fun, no pun intended, joking with some clients about this one. I have sometimes jokingly asked, “Do you want to train, or do you want to be entertained?” Productive training is hard, and if you derive pleasure and a sense of accomplishment from that hard training, then it is fun. I believe exercise and training can be fun. However, it does not have to be a requirement. Sometimes the things that will benefit us most and get us out of our comfort zone are not going to be fun.
Hopefully, this will get you to think about your training differently. I look forward to continuing this philosophical discussion and welcome your thoughts on the subject.
Commit, Show Up, Don’t Quit, Be Uncommon, Be Your Best Self